Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cool beans, iron-ically


If it doesn't freak you out it'll make you stronger. And getting in a cooking contest with Bobby Flay on national TV with a mystery ingredient might be freaky for many of us. 

That's what Seattle's Sabrina Tinsely of Osteria La Spiga faced on Iron Chef America, the Food Network TV show, televised on January 4, 2009. To her credit it appeared she was not freaked.
She was Seattle's second Iron Chef contender: Tom Douglas paved the way in 2005 in his sauté-to-the-death with Iron Chef Morimoto over wild salmon. (Tom prevailed.)

Tinsley flew to New York with two sous chefs and no idea about what she would be cooking. All she knew was that she'd have to magic up dishes using the "secret ingredient," which is identified on-air in a flashy furor at the start of the show.

Tinsley's ingredient was beans, and fortunately it was a huddle of hipster beans, not just pounds and pounds of old canned kidneys. She had haricot vert, fava, edamame, cranberry, and green beans, and less than an on-air hour to make them sing and dance.

Even for a seasoned chef the set-up is a challenge. As if an unknown ingredient upon which you will be judged in front of judges and on national TV isn't enough, chef contenders have the added surprises of working in a kitchen they aren't familiar with (where's the refrigerator?) and of having a camera in their face every time they wiggle. As they push their talents to invent really boffo dishes they are also juggling a million internal questions - will the crostini burn, will the soft-boiled eggs release from their shells, where's the wine kept? In Tinsley's case the two house wines available in the Iron Chef kitchen were dry and sweet - except that one of her sous chefs didn't realize that and poured the sweet wine into a savory sauce. Make it over, pronto.

After learning in the beginning of the program that she must glam up a pod of beans, she quickly settled on:

Crostini con Fava e Guanciale: Crostini with fava bean purée and cured pork jowl

Crocchette d'Uovo con Haricot Vert: Encrusted soft-boiled egg with haricot vert beans and truffle

Polpette di Farro ed Edamame: Farro and edamame vegetable balls with herbed cream sauce

Strozzapreti Neri con Borlotti e Vongole: Rolled pasta that looks like very small rolled towels, only skinnier (see photo) with cranberry beans and clams

Carne Salada con Insalata di Fagiolini, Pomodorini e Condimento di Vino Bianco e Scalogno: Spice-cured beef tenderloin with green bean and heirloom cherry tomato salad, with white wine and shallot dressing

And what did Bobby Flay come up with? Tuna tartare with plantains and edamame sauce, crispy haricot vert beans, trio of Greek-style dips with bean salad, Portobello mushrooms with fava bean pesto, and smoked lobster and haricot vert salad.

It took seven hours to do the one hour show - minus time for commercials - and in the end Bobby won, and Sabrina was taken to dinner by Joe Bastianich, a primo wine guy, Mario Batali's buddy and co-restaurateur and Lidia's son.

Curious about how the menu tasted? I had a handful of them recently and they were way tasty. Sabrina's dishes from Iron Chef will be rotating in and out of the Osteria La Spiga menu, or you could call them up (206-323-8881) and ask when they'll appear again.

Or you could make this yummy bite from the show:

CROCCHETTE D'UOVO
Serves 4

5 eggs
1/2 pound haricot vert (French green beans)
1 cup julienned truffle ham
Breadcrumbs
Oil for frying
Salt to taste
Truffle oil
Shaved black truffles

Soft-boil 4 eggs. Peel and keep in salted ice water to hold. Meanwhile, trim and blanch
the haricot vert in salted boiling water. Drain and transfer beans to an ice water bath to
stop the cooking. Drain. Split the beans lengthwise. Toss beans with ham, truffle oil, and
salt to taste. Set aside.

Preheat oil for frying to 350 degrees.

Beat remaining egg. Dip each soft-cooked egg into the beaten egg and gently dredge in
breadcrumbs. Fry in oil until the outside is golden brown. You do not want to the fry the
egg all the way through. The middle should still remain soft.

Divide the bean salad among plates and place an egg on each mound of salad. Shave
black truffle over the egg and serve.

Recipe courtesy Sabrina Tinsley, Osteria La Spiga, for "Iron Chef America"

Photos courtesy The Food Network

1 comment:

Lisa Orgler said...

Great blog!!

I invite you to visit “The Lunch Box Project” at http://lunchboxproject.blogspot.com.
Please pair up a favorite recipe with my posts (just click on the comment link). I look forward to hearing from you!